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Research and clinical trials

Researchers around the world are looking at improving the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs). They are also looking at how the immune system fights NETs and the quality of life of people with this disease.

Go to Cancer Research UK's clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for pancreatic NETs in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in. 

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

Research into diagnosis

Doctors often use radioactive scans such as octreotide scans and PET scans to help diagnose NETs. They can also show whether the tumour has spread to another part of the body.

You usually have an injection of a radioactive substance (a tracer) before the scan. This helps to show up the neuroendocrine tumour cells. Researchers are looking at different types of tracers to see if it can show up NET cells better. One new tracer is called 18F-FET-βAG-TOCA.

Research into the immune system and NETs

Researchers are looking at how the immune system responds to NETs. And at how treatment with chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs can affect the immune cells inside these tumours. 

Immunotherapy uses our immune system to fight cancer. Researchers aim to use the results of these studies to see whether immunotherapy can help people with NETs.

Research into treatment

Somatostatin analogues

Doctors are looking at new drugs that stop your body from making too many hormones. Researchers think that this will slow down neuroendocrine tumour growth. These drugs are called somatostatin analogues. Somatostatin analogues that doctors are currently looking at include:

  • lanreotide autogel
  • PEN-221

Targeted drugs

Doctors are looking for new ways to help people with NETs that have spread to another part of the body. Lenvatinib is a targeted cancer drug. It works by blocking certain proteins that help cells to grow blood vessels. All cancer cells need blood vessels to survive and grow. Doctors think that lenvatinib might stop the cancer from growing.

Chemotherapy is a possible treatment for pancreatic NETs. Two chemotherapy drugs often used are streptozocin and fluorouracil. Doctors are looking at how well these chemotherapy drugs work before and after a targeted drug called everolimus.

Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

PRRT is a type of internal radiotherapy. This means giving radiation from inside the body. PRRT uses a radioactive substance which you have as a drip into a vein. Researchers want to see how well PRRT work for people with pancreatic NETs. 

Researchers are looking into PRRT using 2 different radioactive substances.

Research into the quality of life

Doctors are looking at how the treatment and illness affect people with pancreatic NETs. These are called quality of life studies. A number of trials are looking at the quality of life of people with NETs.

Before you take part

Cancer Research UK information nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
20 Jun 2019
  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Assessed May 2018

  • ENETs consensus guidelines for the management of patients with digestive neuroendocrine neoplasms: functional pancreatic endocrine tumor syndromes
    R Jensen and others
    Neuroendocrinology, 2012. Vol 95, pages 98-119

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg 
    Wolters Kluwer, 2015

  • Consensus Guidelines for the Management and Treatment of Neuroendocrine Tumors
    P Kunz and others
    Pancreas, 2013. Vol 42, Number 4, Pages 557-577

  • Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors: Pancreatic Endocrine Tumors
    David C Metz and Robert T Jensen 
    Gastroenterology, 2008. Vol 135, Issue 5, Pages 1469-1492

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